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Keeping well this winter

Older lady in a coat outside wrapped in scarf and wearing a woolly hat

Published on 29 November 2022 05:28 PM

Changes to our bodies as we get older mean that cold weather and winter bugs affect us more than they used to.

What you can do

As we age, our immune systems become weaker and less able to fight off viruses. We gradually lose the muscle mass that helps us keep warm and moving about. And the cold makes health conditions harder to manage – it can even affect our hearts and circulation.

The good news is that there's lots we can do to help keep ourselves well in winter.

Keep moving

Try not to sit still for more than an hour at a time. Even a little bit of activity now and then can help you maintain strength and mobility.

If you're not sure where to start, or you have a long-term condition that makes moving more difficult, take a look at Age UK national pages on being active and for advice and tips, as well as some simple chair-based exercises which can be added to your daily routine.

Some people experience frailty as they age, which can make it more difficult to move around, and winter illnesses can have much more of an impact. Learn more about frailty in older people here.

Eat well

It can sometimes be difficult to keep up the motivation to prepare meals. But it's good to try and keep to a routine where you can.

If you've recently lost weight without meaning to, or if you have a smaller appetite than usual, find out why this might be and what might help.

The main thing to remember is that it's better to eat a bit of what you fancy than to eat nothing.

It's a good idea to keep your cupboards stocked with some basics just in case you can't get out to the shops – whether due to illness or bad weather.

This winter many of us may be worried about the rising cost of living, making shopping for groceries and using energy to cook and heat food more expensive.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has some tips for saving money on your shopping and reducing food waste, as well as some budget meal ideas. 

Find out more on the BDA website.

What extra money are you entitled to?

You might be entitled to some support, such as Pension Credit or Attendance Allowance, which could help you stay on top of your finances.

Get your winter vaccinations – even if you're fighting fit

Respiratory viruses are more widespread in winter, so it's especially important to get your vaccinations. Vaccinations are particularly important this winter as flu and coronavirus levels are expected to rise due to an increase in social contact.

Those aged 50 and over are eligible for a coronavirus booster jab. And it's not too late to have your first jabs if you haven't yet.

You're entitled to a free flu jab from the doctor or pharmacist if:

  • you're aged 50 or over
  • you care for someone, such as a friend or family member
  • you have a serious long-term health condition
  • you live in the same house as someone who is immunocompromised
  • you're in long-stay residential care.

When you get your flu jab, check if you're also eligible for the pneumo vaccine, which helps protect you from pneumonia, and the Shingles vaccine.

Make sure your home is warm enough

Try to heat your home to a steady and comfortable temperature throughout the day in the rooms you use most, such as the living room and bedroom. If there are rooms you don't use, like a spare bedroom, turn off the radiators here and close the doors. This will help you save on energy costs. Close all the curtains at dusk to help keep heat in.

It's a good idea to keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is at its coldest.

If you're having trouble with the costs of heating your home, take a look at Age UK's information to help.

This winter there's additional support to help you with the rise in energy bills.

Find out more here.

Stop the spread of germs

As well as getting vaccinated, there are some other simple measures we can take to reduce the spread of illness.

Regularly washing your hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to stop germs from spreading. It's a good idea to keep some antibacterial gel with you when you're out and about, too.

You can also:

  • catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue
  • choose to wear a face covering in busy indoor spaces, like shops
  • leave windows ajar to let fresh air circulate when meeting people indoors
  • avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Wrap up well and stay stocked up

Wearing plenty of layers is the best way to keep warm in winter. If you're heading out, make sure you take some extra layers – even if you don’t need them immediately, it's a good idea to be prepared because the temperature can drop significantly when the sun goes in.

Our top tips can help you keep your hands and feet warm.

It's a good idea to stock up on cold and sore throat remedies, too. Your pharmacist can give you advice on what might help if you're feeling under the weather.


The cold puts more pressure on our hearts and circulation

The cold can increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack, as well as hypothermia. If you suspect yourself, or someone else, is experiencing any of these, call 999 (or 112 from a mobile) immediately.

For a stroke, think FAST:

– is the face drooping on one side?

A – can the person raise both arms and keep them there?

S – is speech slurred?

T – time to call 999 if you spot any one of these signs.

Many people experience severe chest pain during a heart attack – but the symptoms can be different for different people.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency, just like a stroke or a heart attack.


Call 111 for non-emergency health advice. In an emergency, call 999 (or 112 from a mobile).


More cold weather advice and tips HERE

Further Information

Our page on Cost of Living: Support Available, has details and links to more information that can help you this winter.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System (ICS)

Well Together This Winter - useful information published by the ICS on choosing the right health service, keeping warm, looking after your mental health, help with money and, simple tips around self-care.